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Accessibility Lawsuits

While disability laws struggle to keep up with advances in technology, companies battle it out in court to determine the scope of their legal responsibility to make the web accessible.

Here are a few key cases to be aware of.

National Association of the Deaf (NAD) v. NetflixJump to Top

  • NetflixIn 2010, a suit was brought against Netflix by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), alleging that Netflix was discriminating against deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers because not all their streaming video had closed captions.

    The NAD asserted that this online business was a “place of public accommodation” despite lacking a physical location. The NAD also had the backing of the Department of Justice.

    This was the first time the ADA had been interpreted to apply to online-only businesses, and specifically online-only video content.

    In October of 2012, Netflix decided not to go to court and instead to settle with a legally binding consent decree. They agreed to caption 100% of their video retroactively and moving forward.

    Because the case was settled before a court delivered a final ruling, there is room for a difference of opinion on how the ADA applies to only-only businesses.

    More on the Netflix web accessibility lawsuit

National Association of the Deaf (NAD) v. HuluJump to Top

  • HuluThe NAD pressured Hulu to adopt a formal closed captioning policy for their streaming web video, including Hulu originals.

    The plaintiff’s legal team was let by the same attorney that successfully settled the Netflix case on the same issue.

    In September, 2016, Hulu reached a settlement with the NAD. They agreed to adhere to the FCC’s standards for caption quality, and to closed caption all full-length English or Spanish video content by September, 2017.

    More on the Hulu video captioning settlement

National Association of the Deaf (NAD) v. AmazonJump to Top

  • AmazonIn October, 2015, Amazon struck a deal with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to ensure that Amazon’s library of over 190,000 TV shows and films will get closed captioning.

    Amazon Prime Video was already fully captioned, but this agreement tackles Amazon’s archive of Instant Video that wasn’t yet captioned.

    New additions to the Amazon Prime video offerings will also have closed captions.

    The closed captions on Amazon video must comply with FCC caption quality standards for accuracy, placement, timing, and completeness.

    More on the Amazon video captioning settlement

National Association of the Deaf (NAD) v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard UniversityJump to Top

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) v. FedEx Ground Package System, INC. (FedEx Ground)Jump to Top

  • Fedex Ground truckIn 2014, the EEOC sued FedEx for ADA violations because they failed to provide accommodations for deaf or hard-of-hearing employees or job applicants, such as providing American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and closed-captioned training videos during the mandatory initial tour of the facilities and new-hire orientation. In July, 2015, the NAD joined the plaintiff in the litigation.

    In January, 2016, the court denied FedEx’s motions to dismiss the case, and it is still pending.

    More on the FedEx accessibility lawsuit

Earll v. EbayJump to Top

  • eBay
    Melissa Earll brought a disability discrimination lawsuit against eBay after she was barred from selling her goods on the site. eBay’s verification system for sellers requires the retrieval and submission of a password from a telephone call. Earll was unable to retrieve the spoken password because she was deaf.

    In 2013, the court dismissed her case. Earll appealled, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of eBay in 2015. It argued that the ADA’s Title III does not apply to online-only businesses, and so eBay would not be categorized as a place of public accommodation.

    More on the eBay web accessibility lawsuit

DRA v. University of California, BerkeleyJump to Top

  • UC Berkeley
    Between 2011 and 2013, three undergraduate students from the University of California (UC) Berkeley, took legal action over their school’s inaccessible textbooks and unrealistic accommodation timelines. Instead of going to court, the legal team representing the students took the collaborative approach and successfully engaged in structured negotiations with the university.

    The case was ultimately settled. After UC Berkeley was found to be in violation of ADA’s Title III, the administration made substantial changes to their library and print-to-digital conversion process.

    More on the UC Berkeley textbook accessibility settlement
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